Cuba’s economic reforms begin

By December 27, 2010

Cuba (MNN) — Cuba has already started laying off 10 percent of
its workforce.   

was a radical plan to help reduce government spending and boost the
private sector. WorldServe Assistant
Country Director John Dyck says, "It's not something that is made tremendously
public, but I know that people here and there are being told that that's it for them."

To put it into perspective, Dyck says, "We're looking at
probably a million to a million and a half workers being laid off in the next
couple of years. When you consider that there are a five and a half million
workers in Cuba out of a population of 11 million, that's substantial."

While the end game looks good, the process of getting there
could be bumpy. "What is not clear, at
this point, is exactly what kind of safety net that the government would be
willing to provide. Traditionally, health and education have been two of their
big mainstays. The other question is their ration card, which provides them
with some minimum food items–what will that look like?"

The layoffs are beginning to cause both panic and
anger. Experts say it's too much, too
fast, and the people won't be able to bear the brunt of it. Slashing the government jobs in favor of
self-employment and small business is a good idea for the future, but people
have to eat today. 

"The big deal is
day-to-day expenses, where they need the finances to do all of
that," Dyck says, but he adds that
"because of the way the economic system works, they don't necessarily
have even employment that is a fallback kind of position."

It is the most significant economic shift since the early
1990s. The government hopes the
expanded private sector will be able to absorb most of the state workers who
will lose their jobs in the next few months.   

The loss of income could be significant, and that will have
a direct impact on the church. Dyck says, "Something like pastoral support
would be affected, because obviously, if the constituents are not earning their
usual money, they would not be able to contribute towards the expenses of the
church, and then from there, the operations of the church itself and how it

However, even though the layoffs have begun, the effect has
yet to be felt. Dyck thinks the next six
months will be telling. He is also
quick to add that the Cuban people are resilient. This is not the first time
the economic situation presented a survival conundrum.   

Despite the upheaval of the 80s and 90s, the church
struggled through it. As a result, many doors opened for the Gospel. "The Cuban churches have been very big on
being able to help others who are in need because there are a lot of people in
need. That will be severely impacted. The Gospel, I believe, has surged ahead in Cuba because it is difficult
to call yourself a Christian. There are implications for that. I see this kind
of situation as throwing them completely on what God is going to do in their

WorldServe partners with many of these pastors. It's still too early to determine a course of
action for them, but they're monitoring the situation. Dyck says, "Pray for the pastors of those
churches, who are under tremendous
stress, in a difficult political economic situation. Those pastors are now
going to be in more economic a stress. There are over 20,000 house churches
across Cuba."

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